Of the nearest Truths, viz. Of Human Nature


RESOLVING on a faithful search into the nature and certainty of religion, as being the business which my own and all men’s happiness is most concerned in, being conscious of my weakness, and knowing that truths have their certain order, in which they give much light to one another, I found it meet to begin at the most evident, from whence I ascended in the order following.
Sect. 1. I am past all doubt that I have sense, cogitation, understanding, and will, with executive operation.  Though I could not exactly define what these are, yet I am satisfied that I have them: and I discern that a simple term doth better express one of these to me, than a definition doth; because they are known so immediately, in and of themselves, partly by internal sensation, and partly by intuition. And words are but to make known my mind about them to another, and another’s to me; but the things themselves are otherwise to be known. What it is to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, I know better by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, than by any definitions of them; and the bare denomination, when I understand the term, is my best expression. And if I could not answer a sceptic, who denied the certainty of my judgment by sensation and reflexive intuition, yet nature would not suffer me to doubt: or if any such should really make me doubt whether I may not possibly live in a continual delusory dream, and all my senses and understanding be deceived, yet would it satisfy me in the main, that I must judge by such powers as I have, and can do no better, and therefore should be no further solicitous. If any would persuade me that I feel not when I am sick or wounded, or see not when I see, or taste not when or what I taste, yet must I be persuaded, that fallible or infallible, this sense must be used, and serve for the ends to which it is given to me; and that I have no better faculties to use.
Sect. 2. By my actions I know that I am; and that I am a sentient, intelligent, thinking, willing, and operative being; or a wight that hath these powers.  For ab operari ad posse et esse, the consequence is undoubted. Nothing is no agent; and none doth that which he cannot do.
Sect. 3. This mind, or aforesaid power, is found in, or conjunct with, an organised body.  He that doubteth not of his sense and intellection, need not doubt of his body, which is the object of both.
Sect. 4. This body is a quantitative or extensive, nutrite, changeable, corruptible matter. Of which my senses and experience will not suffer me to doubt.
Sect. 5. This mind is fitted to the use of knowing, and is desirous of it, delighted in it, and the more it knoweth, the more it is able and disposed to know.  All this our actions and experience testify. Knowing is to the mind, as seeing is to the eye. One act of knowledge promoteth and facilitateth another.
Sect. 6. Being and verity are its direct objects.  As light and colours are the objects of our sight. To these it hath power and inclination.
Sect. 7. When I know the effects, I have an inclination to know the cause; not only the lower, but the very first. Though it be possible that some sensual, sluggish person, may be so taken up with present earthly things, as to drown these desires, and scarce to think of any first cause, or take any pleasure in the exercise of his higher faculties; yet as I feel it otherwise in myself, so I find it otherwise in multitudes of others, and in all that have free minds, and in the worst at certain times; so that I perceive it is natural to man, to desire to know even the first cause, and highest excellency.
Sect. 8. Yet do I find that my mind is not satisfied in knowing, nor is entity and verity the ultimate object which my mind looketh after, but goodness.  Entity and verity may be unwelcome, loathed things, if against my good. The thief could wish, that neither law, nor judge, nor gallows had a being, and that his sentence were not true. Knowledge is but a mediate motion of the soul, directive to the following volitions and prosecution.
Sect. 9. I find I have a will, inclined to apprehend good; that is, both to that which hath a simple excellency in itself, and which maketh for the happiness of the world, or for my own.h
This maketh itself as well known to me, as my natural appetite. For my apprehensions do but subserve it, and my life is moved or ruled by it.
Sect. 10. It is also averse to apprehended evil as such, as contrary to the aforesaid good.  Though real evil may possibly be chosen, when it is a seeming good, and also that which appeareth proximately evil, for a higher good to which it seemeth a means, yet ultimately and for itself, no rational will desireth or chooseth evil.
Sect. 11. While sensitive pleasure is apprehended as good by the senses, reason may discern a further good, which may cross at least the present sense.
To take bitter physic, to corrode or cut off ulcerated parts, to use hard diet and exercise, &c., may be ungrateful in themselves to sense; and yet commended by reason, and commanded by the will; I yet forbear all higher instances.
Sect. 12. My sense and bodily faculties are naturally to be subjected to the guidance of my reason and the command of my will, as the superior faculties.  For one is common to brutes, and the other proper to rational creatures; and rational agents are more excellent than brutes; and the most excellent should rule. Reason can see further than sense; and the wisest is most fit to govern. They that deny this, should claim no government or power over their beasts, their dogs, or sheep. If reason ruled not sensuality, most persons would presently destroy their lives; even as swine would kill themselves with eating; if the reason of man did not restrain them.
Sect. 13. The sum is, that man is a living wight, having an active and executive power, with an understanding to guide it, and a will to command it; and that there is a certain difference between truth and falsehood, natural good, and evil.k
All this is quite beyond dispute.  source